From education to employment

LOL – for the Love of Learning. How to create learners and leaders

Sid Madge is a transformation and change specialist and founder of Meee.

Did you have a favourite teacher at school? Was there someone who stood out and took the extra time and effort to encourage you? Perhaps a teacher helped you appreciate a natural gift or inspired you to pursue further studies in an area that is now your career.

Most of us have a story about a great teacher who changed our thinking or made us look at the world slightly differently. Isn’t it interesting that with a great teacher learning was fun, it was also a little easier and it was always those classes we most looked forward to?

I recently watched an amazing online session called ‘What does it take to be the world’s best teacher’ hosted by Learning Possibilities. The hour-long program featured Andria Zafirakou MBE, Global Teacher Prize Winner 2018.

It was hard not to warm to her honesty and humility about how she won the award and what it took to achieve it. Her commitment, perseverance, creativity and ability to adapt, especially in lockdown demonstrated why she won the award and the $1 million prize money.

It struck me as I listened to her that she seems to have mastered the 3is – Inspire, Include and Involve.

Astonishingly she learned the basics of many of the 35 languages represented in her school’s pupil population, including Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Nigerian and Ghanaian (inspire). As such she was able to reach out to her once marginalised students to earn their trust and, crucially, establish relationships with their parents, many of whom do not speak English (include). She went against the grain, taking the time to understand her pupils’ lives beyond school by visiting their homes, riding with them on the bus and standing at the school gates with police officers to welcome pupils as they arrive at the start of the school day (involve).

Thanks to her efforts, her school Alperton Community School in Brent is now in the top 1 to 5 percent of the country in terms of qualifications and accreditations. This is a colossal achievement given how low the students’ starting points were and how rapidly they progressed during their five to seven years at the school – a point recognised by the national inspection team.

So how can we emulate that as parents, schoolteachers and FE educators?

One thing that is central to the work we do at Meee is a fundamental belief that there is magic inside everyone. We all have gifts that we can share with the world. We just need to discover ways to find and use them. Of course, this is easy to know and often hard to remember, especially with increasing class sizes or busy parental schedules so let’s take a closer look at each.


As Andria said, teaching is a way of life, it’s a privilege and to inspire a love of learning has to be at the top of the priority list. Too often in life, learning is seen as something for children or young people only. Then as soon as we hit 18 or leave FE, or university our need to learn drifts into reverse. And yet science is showing that a love of learning can keep our mind and body healthy and stave off degenerative diseases in later life.

Since 1986 University of Kentucky scientist David Snowdon has studied 678 nuns and has shown that an active intellectual life, insatiable curiosity and a love of learning can protect us from the effects of Alzheimer’s.

How can children possibly know what they are good at if they only have the opportunity to learn within a defined curriculum? Perhaps it is our job as parents and teachers to think outside the box and introduce different types of opportunities to engage with the world and learn subjects or have experiences that introduce them to more of the world and inspire this love of learning.

Surely, it’s about inspiring others to be better and we can use the arts to help us be more creative. Teaching is in everything we do, as is learning and we often limit learning to places like schools, FE facilities or universities but learning is all around us. The more we can recognise that and embrace it the more likely that inspired children will grow into inspired adults capable of changing the world for the better.


Have you seen the new Google advert with Marcus Rashford? It’s a great example of the love of learning and the power of questions. We see all sorts of different types of people witnessing other people doing things they may not understand – cultural festivals or shared traditions. But rather than dismissing them as different, they ask questions to learn and better understand. Human beings are often scared of what they don’t understand or have no experience of, asking questions, getting involved and embracing difference as a way to understand the world around us better is so essential if we are to collectively solve the problems we face. It is the children in the classrooms of the world – right now, who will be called to solve these problems and a love of learning and willingness to ask questions instead of shutting down into ignorance is a skill all of us could improve.

One of my all-time favourite documentaries was ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free’ on BBC Two. An experiment run by Dr Javid Abdelmoneim to see the impact of gender stereotypes and what happens if you purposefully remove them. Although unnecessarily titled to be provocative it was astonishing. In one segment people from different professions were brought in to meet the seven years olds. The class met a male makeup artist and male ballet dancer and a female electrician and stuntwoman. It blew their tiny little minds, and you could see the learning happen in real time.

How could we as parents and teachers help to open these discussions and demonstrate inclusivity and that anything really is possible regardless of who we are, where we come from or our gender.


There is so much more to lifelong learning than books and tests. It is simply a willingness to get involved. How can we encourage children to participate, at all levels? In a world that seems to over value results and under value effort it is our job as parents and teachers to reverse that trend. Effort is what really matters. Try, try and try again. Failure is just another step toward success, and it IS better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all. But we must also be a living expression of that willingness to try, to keep going and to use the learning, even when it’s tough to review in preparation for the next effort. Do you know why WD-40 is called WD-40? WD stands for Water Dispersal. They tried to perfect the recipe 39 times before finally succeeding on the 40th try. Today there are over 2000 registered uses for WD-40 because someone or a small team refused to give up.

Learning as a Way of Life

I’ve always loved words. I’m always curious about how they came about and how so many have clues about the meaning or potential of that word baked into the word.

In our Meee education programmes we ask attendees to write down how many words they can make using the letters in the word LEARNING. So far, the most any group has come up with is 50 words. It’s impressive but there are actually 182!

What is especially curious about LEARNING is that the second, third and fourth letters (EAR) hold the key to effective learning. As Calvin Coolidge once said, “No man ever listened himself out of a job”. The more we listen the more we learn. Add the fifth letter and you get EARN. I don’t think that’s a coincidence either. It might be worth reminding our children that the more we learn the more we gain in terms of capability. Add the last letters and you get EARNING. So, the more we listen the more we earn and the more that adds to our earning potential. Words are so cool.

The love of learning is all about embracing the unknown and going all in. Jumping off the cliff of uncertainty to discover more of the world around us. That is our job as a teacher, whether we are a parent or standing in front of students.

In the work we do we look to Inspire, Include, Involve. And our essence is to Find The Magic In You, by Engaging, Energising and Enabling everyone to discover their magic. We all have it; we just need to know where to look.

Sid Madge is a transformation and change specialist and founder of Meee.

Meee draws on the best creativity and thinking from the worlds of branding, psychology, neuroscience, education and sociology, to help people embrace change and achieve extraordinary lives.

From pupils to CEOs, we’ve helped thousands find their magic to transform themselves, their communities and their organisations. From leaders of PLCs and SMEs to parents, teachers, students, carers, the unemployed and prison inmates we help people excel.

Sid Madge is also author of the ‘Meee in Minute’ series of books which each offer 60 ways to change your life, work-, or family-life in 60 seconds.

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